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Officers who have been victims of intentional collisions by drivers have often overlooked or misunderstood their rights to be compensated for the serious injuries resulting from these collisions.  Frequently they wrongly assume or have been ill-advised they have no rights to compensation or that no insurance company will compensate them where the offending driver's conduct was intentional, let alone criminal.  This article is about a successful case involving a mentally unstable driver who intentionally rammed a cruiser causing serious injuries to the officer.  In other cruiser ramming cases we have been successful even though the offending operator got away without being identified, had no insurance or was driving a stolen motor vehicle.  Be advised, there are often other insurance policies available, which allow us to  pursue and collect substantial monetary compensation for these officers.  This compensation is over and above the mandated injury on duty wage and medical expenses benefits the injured officers receive from work.  In this case, we were able to collect such compensation from the insurance company for the offending driver, despite its attempts to avoid liability for what appeared to be an intentional collision. (*In order to protect the privacy of the injured officer, all names and dates have been changed.  Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended.  Officer Shield was glad to share his story with fellow officers in order to educate them about their rights when injured on duty in similar and other cases.)

At approximately 4:00 a.m., Officer Jeff Shield was patrolling a public parking lot, where there had been prior reports of vandalism and mischief, when he came upon a vehicle driven by Paul Spinner.  Spinner was driving erratically through the empty lot, while throwing bottles and trash out his window.  It is posted that the parking lot closes at 10 p.m., so that the driver was technically trespassing, as well as causing a disturbance.  When Officer Shield directed his spotlight on the car, Spinner drove off still hurling bottles from his window.  Officer Shield pursued Spinner with his lights and siren activated.  After a half mile pursuit, Spinner locked up his brakes, and shifted into reverse slamming Officer Shield's cruiser in the front end, pushing it back almost twenty yards in the process.  Despite suffering injuries in the collision, Officer Shield continued his pursuit of Spinner.  When Spinner entered another parking lot, Officer Shield followed into the lot in his cruiser.  Spinner then drove his vehicle directly into Officer Shield's cruiser again, in what must have been an attempt to disable the cruiser.  This time the cruiser was caused to turn around from the collision and Spinner's air bag deployed.  The cruiser was totaled, but Officer Shield was able to exit the cruiser.  Officer Shield took his service weapon from his holster as Spinner exited his vehicle and charged towards Officer Shield.  Spinner relented and then went down to the ground as ordered, where Officer Shield handcuffed him.   Spinner was arrested and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a police officer.  Spinner claimed his actions were due to a mental disorder which was out of control as he had gone off of his prescription medication.  Although his medical condition helped Spinner avoid an indictment for attempted murder on a police officer, Spinner was found guilty of the other charges and given a suspended sentence provided he undergo counseling for his condition and stay on his medication.

Although it was gratifying to have Spinner convicted, Officer Shield suffered serious injuries which were not fully compensated by the injury on duty pay he received.  Officer Shield lost substantial monies from being unable to work overtime and details for the four months he was out of work.  Following a night in the emergency room and weeks in pain, Officer Shield was out of work for a month before he was well enough to return.  Over the next several months his shoulder got worse and ultimately required surgery.  Following surgery, he was out of work another three months.  Throughout his treatment and recovery period, Officer Shield suffered a great amount of pain, both before surgery and during the rehabilitation of his shoulder following surgery.  Fortunately, Officer Shield had his own orthopedic surgeon who ordered the proper diagnostic tests that paved the way for an early diagnosis of his injury, which would not improve without surgery.  In many cases, an injured officer relies upon the doctors and/or physician assistants assigned to him at the occupational health department of the local hospital, who unfortunately may not pay enough attention to the officer's condition and/or overlook injuries which may have been revealed by a thoughtful and thorough medical examination by a specialist.

The city that employed Officer Shield paid all of his medical bills and his base wages during the four months he was out of work following the accident and his surgery.    As a result of the shoulder surgery, which was successful, Officer Shield was left with a surgical scar, soreness which is worse in cold and rainy weather, and pain and discomfort which is exacerbated at work, particularly when he must direct traffic during a detail.

Despite Spinner's insurance company's attempts to avoid paying the policy limit of $100,000.00 based upon policy language and case law which permits the company to avoid liability over and above the compulsory $20,000 limit for intentional conduct, we were able to convince the insurance company that Spinner did not have the requisite mental capacity at the time of the accident to formulate such an intent.                                                                               

An injured officer should always consider seeking a free consultation to determine his or her rights, benefits, and the probability of making a successful claim.  I am always available by telephone, email or a personal meeting.  Once I evaluate the case and the officer's chances of success, the decision whether to go forward rests with the officer.  If the injured officer is out of work, the decision when to return to work rests, as it should, with the officer and his or her doctor.  Unlike other attorneys, we do not believe in, nor do we have any interest in, keeping officers out injured any longer than necessary to heal from their injuries.  As it is, many of our injured officers never miss a day of work and are still able to receive substantial compensation for their injuries which continue to nag at them during long hours spent behind the wheel of a cruiser and/or standing on a road job.

As with all claims involving an officer's injury on duty, there are no guarantees.  Many police injury cases involve sophisticated legal issues, problems of proof, technical insurance policy coverage disputes, and issues that arise under Massachusetts General Laws c. 41, §100 and §111F, Chapter 152, State Police Article 8 and or other related laws.

When we work on these cases, we work on a contingent fee basis. That means the injured officer pays nothing up front and while the case is pending.  He or she only need pay for legal services and expenses at the end of the case, if we successfully collect money on the claim.   We typically will receive one-third of the money collected.   In the off-chance we are unable to collect money for the injured officer, the officer owes nothing for our legal services.


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